The Koba Score – Measuring Power

What is the Koba Score and How Is It Calculated?

Power is everywhere in human relationships. The interface between governments and individuals is one of the most fundamental human relationships. Power drives it. Not love, not willing exchanges, but power.

The Koba Score is an attempt to measure the impact power imposes on individuals. Some impacts are minimal. Some are sweeping.

Since the enlightenment, governments have had to justify their use of power. Philosophically, the people are the source of power. So power imposed on the people must have their consent.

Ignorance of that power subtracts from the legitimacy of the people’s consent. The Koba score reduces that ignorance. It deepens our understanding of the impact of power on individuals.

The Koba score is a tool for individuals’ to rethink their consent to transfer power to central authorities. Power ceded by better informed individuals is more legitimate than power ceded by stale custom or rote tradition.

The Koba score measures the impact of power as a portion of an individual’s life. A low score of 0 indicates a particular power has no impact on a person’s life. A high score of 100 indicates power has complete control over a life, including the power to end it.

The Band between Before and After

One state of affairs exists before power is applied. Choice is broad and unrestricted. Individuals can select from a palette of options unlimited by church or state or culture or custom.

A second state of affairs exists after power is applied. Choices are narrowed. Results are likely different. The change between the pre-power and post-power conditions is the impact of power.

Example 1. Before power: a child may be free to play in the yard. She may run into the street and be hit by a car. Her parents may choose to apply power perhaps restrict the child to the indoors. She may be safer but may also miss playing with other kids and the socialization involved.

Example 2. Pre-power: a teenager may be able to take a job at any wage she and an employer agree. Power may come along and apply a minimum wage. The cost of the teenager may then be more than the value of the teen’s work. Teens remain unemployed. Economic activity hums less harmoniously than it otherwise would. The pre-power and post-power outcomes are different.

Example 3. Pre-power: young adults are free to choose who to date and who to marry. Then power dictates that parents shall choose childrens’ spouses. The pre-power situation is very different than the post-power situation for the young adults involved.

Between pre-power and post-power conditions exists a band of possible choices and possible outcomes. This difference is the impact of power, which is the target of the Koba’s telescope.

Two Components: Life Satisfaction and Financial

Measuring the value of a life to its owner is difficult. One’s life is an infinitely complex mixture of relationships, skills and talents, and varying degrees of satisfaction with one’s life and how it has been lived.

The Koba simplifies life into two all encompassing components: Life Satisfaction and Finance. For both, the Koba uses the concept of Par. Par is 100. Both Life Satisfaction and Finance are weighted equally. Each comprises 50% of the score.

Complete bliss every day of one’s life is not necessary to hit 100 on the Life Satisfaction scale. Simply being as satisfied with life as an average person of one’s time, culture, and the socio-economic status of one’s family during childhood is Par.

The Life Satisfaction required to hit a Par of 100 would be higher for a woman grew up in London in the 1990s, raised by parents employed as an architect and a businessperson, than it would be for a man, the son of a woman captured and enslaved as war booty in 11th century central Asia, to make an extreme example.

Financially, Par is the lifetime income one can typically expect given one’s age, the economy of one’s culture, and the socio-economic status of one’s family during childhood. A Par of 100 might be reasonably projected typical lifetime income of $130,000 for a young Sudanese boy born in 2000 with no formal education. It might be $2 million for a girl born the same year who now has a masters degree and comes from a family who’s patriarch is a senior manager of a large organization in Japan.

A score of 100 for both the Life Satisfaction and the Finance measures will be different for different individuals.

Scores can exceed 100. There are fates worse than death, as ISIS is a reminder. Many people are more financially successful than Par. Nonetheless, we use 100 as a practical upper limit.

Power Impacts

Government or commercial power can change life’s outcomes that impact one’s life satisfaction. It can make people more or less happy than Par. It might force one to marry someone against one’s will. It might channel one into a particular school that may be better or worse than others. It may force a family member into a military service in which he is killed. It may push a steady stream of information that feeds rage and anger, or otherwise distorts popular thought.

Outside power can also change one’s finances. Most obviously it does so by raising or lowering taxes, or managing the economy poorly or well. Power may also provide services that increase or reduce one’s finances. Education and health care are clear examples.

Commercial power can impact one’s finances by charging higher or lower prices, paying higher or lower wages, and paying greater or lesser returns on investment.

The Balance between Finances and Life Satisfaction

Money may not buy happiness, but it can cure some causes of misery. There are people who will have great life satisfaction with minimal finances. Others will derive great life satisfaction simply through financial success. The Koba weights Life Satisfaction equally with Finances. That can be changed.

Estimating life satisfaction is subjective, yet we use an academic convention. It theorizes that first, life satisfaction depends on relatedness – one’s pesonal relationships with other people. Second is competence. If one feels competent, one is more satisfied. Third is autonomy. People who make their own decisions are more satisfied than those who do not.

Autonomy is of special importantce in any discussion about power. The ability to make one’s own decision, even if the powers-that-be make the same decision, has value for people.

Certainly, there are some decisions individuals are very willing to allow others to make. Technical decisions are obvious.

Value of Self-Determination

There are many decisions people much prefer to make themselves. Think of an arranged marriage. Or selecting one’s occupation. Or where to live or whether to start a business. Selecting a school, or a doctor, or an auto mechanic are choices that add to people’s life satisfaction.

Power, of course, is about making decisions for other people. When power removes those choices from individual’s life palette, the burden of proof is on power to justify its actions.

KOBA (Katabolic Oppression Band Assessment)

Katabolic is a term taken from biology. It describes a process in which complex compounds are destroyed and degraded into simpler elements. Here, power reduces a complex mix of individuals’ varying self-defined needs and wants into simpler, more uniform needs and wants defined by a powerful organization.

The Oppression Band is the difference between the free, pre-power state of one individual’s Life Satisfaction and Finances and the restricted, post-power state.

The application of power to any situation will reduce the options of the individuals upon whom the power is imposed. The power may or may not have a benefit to the person it is applied. It may expand other choices, or increase the quality or quantity of services available to the subject of power.

Evaluating the trade-off between the power given up and whatever the individual receives in return is the ultimate focus of this stream of thought.

The Strength of the Threat

Beyond measuring the difference between an individuals’ pre-power and post-power condition, there is another element. It is the consequences to a person of defying power. Whether the threat posed by power is trivial or severe impacts the degree to which power distorts the free, pre-power state of affairs.

Buying Apple instead of Microsoft is a way to avoid the cost of Windows’ market power. Some people make the point that if there was free, vigorous competition for operating systems, there would be fewer security breaches and fewer virus infections. Upgrading to a new computer would be less painful and time consuming than it is. The software would be better explained by its maker. It would easier to use, quicker to troubleshoot and more productive. It imposes significant unnecessary costs to consumers, according to this line of thought.

One can avoid Microsoft by buying Apple. Apple operating systems, however, are not perfect substitutes because they do not run all the software that runs on Windows.

Via its market power, Windows imposes costs on consumers. The Windows “penalty” can be avoided, but moving to Apple or Linux also imposes additional costs.

The cost of Windows market power is moderate for most users, as is the cost of avoiding Windows.

The Post Office’s power penalty is a completely different animal. The government agency’s power is vast. (I argue that the Post Office has not been privatized, as is often claimed.) Other organizations are famously prohibited from carrying first class mail.

Defying that prohibition entails an exorbitant cost, including criminal charges. Successfully resisting criminal prosecution will bring down the full coercive force of the state upon one’s head, resulting in imprisonment or loss of life. Microsoft cannot do that.

For the crime of greater efficiency a competitor goes to jail. This could easily be judged an overuse of power.

Future Refinements to the Koba Score

The first refinement would be to formalize rules for establishing Par for any particular individual. Striking the right balancing between simplicity and efficiency on one side and complexity and replicability on the other is a key target.

The Life Satisfaction side of the Koba is indispensable for those choices that have meaningful nonfinancial aspects to them, as most do. Life Satisfaction is clearly a key ingredient in human well being.

Psychometrics are becoming more capable of measuring life satisfaction. There is significant academic interest in the subject  and we can expect greater understanding with time. Improvement would be very useful here.

Long term financial projections necessarily have soft spots in them. Many aspects of the future are unknowable in advance. Nonetheless assumptions must be made. Analyzing those assumptions and continuously revising them as necessary will add to the Koba.

Another possible refinement to the Financial side is to present value future cash flows. It is normal to present value future financial projections. One dollar today is worth more than one dollar 20 years hence, because the dollar today can be invested and grow.

Present value adjusts money tomorrow into today’s value today by the amount the money is expected to grow when invested. It adds complexity and there is considerable academic debate as to the appropriate discount rate to use in adjustment, especially for public sector projects. Nonetheless, this issue bears revisiting.

The Koba Score as a Foundation in Judging Power

Think of the Koba score as tool for judging the impact of power. Like many statistics, although it can be calculated to umpteen decimal places, it is not a precise quantification. The underlying assumptions are too soft to justify such implied accuracy. The Koba Score is intended as an indication of an order of magnitude.

It is a measure of changes in human well being. It can be used outside of any analysis of power.

Koba scores are a practical aid in an area of subjective judgment. It can be refined and honed and much improved. With development it may become as reliable as an IQ test.

As we use it here, the Koba Score is a foundation for assessing of the impact of power.


For samples of Koba Scores, click HERE.

One thought on “The Koba Score – Measuring Power

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *